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Posted Friday, April 30, 2004
Haiti's first investment bank to focus on projects for poor
By James Cox, USA Today

Seventy wealthy Haitians and Haitian-Americans are launching the island nation's first investment bank, setting their sights on modest returns to give priority to projects that will benefit Haiti's poor masses.

PromoCapital hopes to spend up to $150 million in Haiti over the next two years, says Henri Deschamps, a prominent Port-au-Prince printing and media executive who will chair the bank.

"People are quite fed up with Haiti being in constant upheaval, as are we. You have to go and try to make it better," he says. "Globally, the place looks like it's a shambles, but in fact individual businesses are slugging it out and succeeding."

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world. It is chronically dependent on aid from the United States, World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank, along with an estimated $800 million sent home annually by Haitian exiles working abroad.

President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled the country Feb. 29 as rebels closed in on the capital and lawlessness engulfed the city. A 3,600-member multinational force, including 2,000 U.S. Marines, is in Haiti to keep order. An interim government says it will hold elections next year.

Deschamps says PromoCapital will be a pipeline for investment by some of the millions of Haitians abroad and fill a void left by undercapitalized commercial banks and weary aid agencies. He says PromoCapital will:

• Finance modernization projects. PromoCapital is looking at investments in telecom and housing for the working poor.

• Find partners for family-owned businesses in need of financing to expand.

• Offer credit guarantees to farmers and small and midsize businesses that suffered damage and losses from recent looting and vandalism. The guarantees will let entrepreneurs borrow on favorable terms from the country's commercial banks.

Dumarsais Siméus, a PromoCapital founder who owns a large food-processing business in Texas, says partners are looking for annual returns in the mid- or high teens, compared with the 20% to 40% returns typically sought by investors in private equity funds.

Traditionally, much of Haiti's business elite has been viewed with distrust by ordinary Haitians and government leaders alike.

"The Haitian business class has not been highly regarded for its ethos of enlightened self-interest," says Robert Maguire, a Haiti expert at Trinity College in Washington, D.C. "It wanted very much to protect its privileged position (rather than) use its investments for the well-being of society."

Reprinted from USA Today, April 29, 2004.

Posted Wednesday, April 28, 2004
U.S. Ambassador outlines stance on Haiti; Washington's main concern in Haiti is drug trafficking
By Michelle Faul, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Apr. 28 - The U.S. ambassador to Haiti warned that the impoverished country has no choice but to become a modern nation, but must first overcome massive challenges that include drug trafficking and a deep divide between the rich and poor.

Ambassador James B. Foley outlined future U.S. policy toward the country "whose problems quickly become our problems" in a wide-ranging speech Tuesday to business leaders.

Despite the "enormous number of reasons to be pessimistic," he said the United States was optimistic, committed to help transform the country in the long term, and would announce "considerable aid" at a June donors' conference where he appealed for others also to be generous, specifically naming the European Union.

"Haiti doesn't really have the choice of missing this new last chance," he said. "It's going to change because it must change; the alternative is unthinkable."

The United States' main concern in Haiti is drug-trafficking (related story) that corrupted the ousted regime of Jean-Bertrand Aristide and threatens future governments, the U.S. ambassador said.

Foley said leaders of the February rebellion that led to Aristide's ouster must lay down their weapons. He also urged Haiti's tiny and mostly lighter-skinned elite to abandon its class system and antiquated business methods that breed corruption while keeping the darker-skinned majority in near-serfdom.

"The current situation in Haiti is disastrous," Foley told more than 200 people at a dinner of the Haitian-American Chamber of Commerce.

"Everything must change: the government, the society, the private sector, the political parties," he said. "Especially, mentalities in general must evolve profoundly so that Haiti can become a modern nation."

With Haiti a transshipment point for up to 15 percent of Colombian cocaine that reaches the United States, Foley said Washington's "biggest worry" is trafficking.

"With the departure of one regime that maintained intimate relations with big traffickers ... there will be an effort to rebuild the networks — including by trying to infiltrate and manipulate the police," he said.

That appeared to refer to rebel leader Guy Philippe's efforts to have 1,500 former soldiers from Haiti's disbanded army enlisted in a recruiting drive to fortify and professionalize a police force that fled before the rebel advance before Aristide was ousted. The United States says Aristide promoted officers for political reasons and used the force to attack his enemies.

U.S. officials have said anonymously that Philippe facilitated drug trafficking while he was Aristide's police chief for north Haiti, but none has provided evidence and Philippe denies the charges. Aristide also denies claims that he profited from the Haitian drug trade, worth an estimated $1 billion annually.

Haiti's entrepreneurs must invest in all key sectors and especially in educating people, he said. Haiti may has one of the world's worst literacy rates, at well below 50 percent.

Entrepreneurs must "turn the Haitian masses into real consumers," Foley said. Salaries seldom top the mandatory $2 a day, while half the work force is unemployed or tries to get by with odd jobs.

Foley's speech, delivered in elegant French, drew much applause but some hostility.

"I think it is time now to accept your responsibility and admit you made a mistake in making us suffer 10 years of Aristide," said businessman Philippe Villedrouin.

He was referring to President Bill Clinton's deployment of 20,000 troops to Haiti in 1994 to end a brutal military dictatorship, restore Aristide to power and halt an exodus of tens of thousands of boat people.

Aristide, a former priest who ministered to Haiti's poor, became the first freely elected leader on a wave of hope in 1991 that he would finally lift Haitians from grinding poverty.

After he was ousted, Aristide has been given temporary asylum in Jamaica on condition he remained silent about his charges that the United States engineered a coup against him — charges Foley denied.

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press

Haiti leader wants to seize Aristide accounts
By Reuters

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, April 27 (Reuters) - Haiti’s new leader said on Tuesday he was working with the United States, France and the European Union to track down and freeze bank accounts belonging to ousted President Jean Bertrand Aristide.

Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue told local radio he believed the accounts held as much money as the foreign governments were likely to lend his poor Caribbean country in its efforts to rebuild after a monthlong revolt.

Latortue, appointed by a council of prominent Haitians after Aristide was driven into exile on Feb. 29 by the armed rebellion and U.S. and French pressure to quit, did not give a figure for the money he accuses Aristide of stealing.

Neither did he indicate where he thought the accounts were likely to be found.

The former U.N. bureaucrat plans to travel to Washington, Paris and Brussels next month and said he would pursue the efforts to seize the accounts.

Aristide supporters say he lived modestly and they doubt he ever stole a cent of public money for himself.

U.S. Marines are leading a 3,600-member multinational force that began arriving in Haiti hours after Aristide’s departure. The U.S. troops are due to hand over to a U.N. peacekeeping force on June 1.

Aristide, a former slum priest who became Haiti’s first democratically elected leader in 1991, is in temporary exile in nearby Jamaica. He claims he was ousted in a U.S.-backed "political kidnapping," a charge Washington denies

U.S. sends 651 Haitians back to homeland
By Ken Thomas, Associated Press Writer

MIAMI, Apr. 27 - The United States sent 651 Haitians (photos) back to their troubled Caribbean homeland Tuesday, days after they were intercepted in overloaded sailing vessels off the coast of Haiti.

Coast Guard officials said none of the immigrants was injured and most were in good conditions when they were picked up at sea Friday and Saturday. The three vessels that carried them were destroyed.

A total of 1,948 Haitians have been interdicted and returned so far in 2004, Coast Guard officials said. The numbers have already surpassed those of the two previous years: 1,490 in 2003 and 1,287 in 2002.

"Our stepped-up presence off the coast of Haiti continues for the purpose of saving lives, by rescuing those already on the water in boats, and by deterring those who may be considering migration by sea," Capt. Wayne Justice said.

The repatriations come as a multinational force works to stabilize Haiti following the Feb. 29 departure of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who fled under pressure from the United States and France and a popular rebellion led by former soldiers of the disbanded Haitian army.

The Haitians returned Tuesday were dropped off in Port-au-Prince by a Coast Guard cutter. Officials said 35 Haitians from the three vessels were awaiting disposition of their cases.

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press

Chilean peacekeepers patrol Haitian town
By Michelle Faul, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Apr. 27 - Attackers set ablaze two police stations hours before Chilean troops began patrolling the city of Hinche, in the first deployment of the U.S.-led multinational force in Haiti's rebel-held Central Plateau, military sources said.

U.S. Marines said they arrested five heavily armed men in fatigues in Port-au-Prince on Monday, and a rebel leader said they were on they way to the site of the attacks in the strategically placed city.

In other incidents, French troops in northern Gonaives seized two government vehicles from rebels and a street gang in Petit-Goave made a symbolic surrender of a half dozen weapons to police in the first disarmament exercise in the south.

The events in the past three days mark the expansion of the presence of the U.S.-led multinational force in Haiti and indicate the possible resistance that could confront the 3,600 troops from four nations as they move into areas controlled for nearly two months by former Haitian army soldiers and street gangs.

Despite the intervention, hundreds of Haitians are risking their lives at sea in search of a better livings abroad.

The U.S. Coast Guard is to repatriate 686 boat people intercepted on three boats Friday, Sunday and Tuesday, the U.S. Embassy said Monday.

In neighboring Jamaica, police detained 128 Haitians who arrived in two boats Monday, bringing to 429 the number of Haitians to land there since the rebellion. It was the largest group to arrive there this year, and the overall figure represents the largest influx to Jamaica since thousands of Haitians fled during a 1991-1994 military regime that had ousted Aristide.

The United States sent 20,000 troops to put an end to brutal military rule, restore Aristide and halt a flood of tens of thousands of Haitian boat people to Florida in 1994.

Amid similar fears, Washington sent a much smaller force within hours of Aristide's departure Feb. 29, as rebels neared Port-au-Prince and the United States and France called for his resignation.

Hundreds of police officers and government officials fled, fearing reprisals. The resulting vacuum of leadership has forced peacekeepers to negotiate with rebels, including former soldiers accused of brutalizing civilians.

The U.S.-backed interim government announced Monday that it was firing or transferring nearly 800 people who used to work for Aristide in the presidential palace.

Only 125 of 620 security officers at the palace would be retained, and another 272 administrative employees would be fired, Cabinet director Michel Brunache said Monday, giving no reasons for the dismissals and transfers that he called a "cleanup."

Former palace security chief Oriel Jean (band of extremely dangerous brothers, or druglords), 39, was extradited from Canada to the United States last month on drug trafficking charges. Palace security officers also are accused of directing street gangs to attack Aristide's opponents.

Last week the government fired 150 mainly high-ranking police officials. On Monday, the government continued its campaign for new police recruits.

Thousands of job applicants formed a line more than two miles long. A similar drive was suspended last week after several people were injured and one applicant suffocated to death in a stampede by people eager for work in this poorest country of the Western Hemisphere.

Less than half of Haiti's 5,000 police have returned to their posts since Aristide fled, posing challenges for a government that says he wants to reconcile Haiti's divided population of 8.2 million, but also insists that those who helped rid the country of Aristide — including former soldiers accused of human rights violations — deserve some recognition.

That policy leaves peacekeepers in a difficult position.

In Hinche, Chilean troops arrived Monday after an agreement with former Army Master Sgt. Joseph Jean-Baptiste, who nine weeks ago seized the town 70 miles northeast of Port-au-Prince.

Thirty Chilean soldiers began foot and vehicle patrols that will continue daily while they return to Port-au-Prince at nightfall, said spokesman Gonzalo Vega.

Sunday night, men believed to be under Jean-Baptiste's command set ablaze two police stations, said military sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

On Monday, U.S. Marines arrested five heavily armed men in camouflage, spokesman Lt. Col. David Lapan said. Rebel leader Ravix Ravissainthe said he told the men to go to Hinche to resolve problems where "people were burning houses."

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press

Posted Monday, April 26, 2004
Haiti fires 300 Aristide staff
By The Australian, from correspondents in Port-au-Prince

April 27, 2004 - CHILEAN troops began patrolling Haiti's strategically important city of Hinche overnight, the first troops from a US-led multinational force to deploy in the rebel-held Central Plateau where rebels launched a revolt to oust Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

A US-backed interim government, meanwhile, announced plans to fire or transfer nearly 800 people who used to work for Aristide in the presidential palace.

Only 125 of 620 security officials at the palace would be retained, and another 272 administrative employees would be fired, cabinet director Michel Brunache said overnight, without giving reasons for the dismissals and transfers.

Former palace security chief Oriel Jean, 39, was extradited from Canada to the United States last month on drug trafficking charges. Palace security officers also have been accused of giving directions to street gangs that attacked Aristide's opponents.

Loyalties to Aristide or to his Lavalas party prompted an exodus of government officials and police officers during the rebellion. Many left their posts fearing reprisal attacks.

The vacuum has forced the government to look for new police recruits. Thousands of job applicants formed a long line today for a police recruiting drive. A similar drive was suspended last week after a recruit was asphyxiated during a stampede by eager recruits.

Less than half of Haiti's 5000 police have returned to their posts since Aristide fled on February 29, posing challenges to the government in regaining control of rebel-held areas or towns now patrolled by gang members sympathetic to the rebels.

In the southern town of Petit-Goave, a street gang that helped oust Aristide surrendered seven weapons in a symbolic gesture yesterday.

The old rifle and six pistols, which were looted when residents ransacked a police station after Aristide left - did not include rifles townspeople had seen the young men toting.

In Hinche, meanwhile, Chilean troops arrived after an agreement with former Army Master Sergeant Joseph Jean-Baptiste, who seized the town in the second week of the rebellion and has held sway. The town is 113 km northeast of Port-au-Prince.

Thirty Chilean soldiers arrived overnight aboard two US Chinook helicopters and began foot and vehicle patrols, said spokesman Gonzalo Vega. The troops will return to Port-au-Prince at nightfall, and return for daily patrols, he said.

"Everything is calm there and we made contact with Mr Jean-Baptiste, who has showed his willingness to collaborate to ensure the security of the city," Vega said.

The Chileans concede they are heavily outnumbered by an estimated 400 rebels in Hinche and its surrounding towns. Only 15 police officers have returned since the revolt.

About 3600 peacekeepers from Canada, Chile, France and the United States are trying to help Haiti's demoralised police force. Hinche, a town of about 100,000 people, straddles a strategic crossroads and is in Haiti's agricultural heartland.

The vacuum of leadership caused by the rebellion has forced peacekeepers to negotiate with rebels, many of whom like Jean-Baptiste come from the former Haitian army disbanded by Aristide when he was first ousted in a 1991 coup.

Meanwhile, interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue yesterday visited the northern port of St Marc, 70 km northwest of the capital, and asked for patience.

Some have said the government is working too slowly to restore basic services, such as electricity and water, to punish people in former Aristide strongholds.

Latortue said people should give his government at least 100 days before passing judgment.

© The Australian

Posted Saturday, April 24, 2004
An April 24 New York Times Editorial
New test for new Americans

The path to United States citizenship is getting ever steeper. Background checks are needed, backlogs have increased, and the price of applying for citizenship is set to rise to more than $300 by the end of the month. These changes are caused in part by increased security concerns and associated costs. But soon, in what seems to be piling on discouragement and stress for would-be citizens, there will be a revised test of whether appliants possess the knowledge deemed necessary to become an American.

Please see also: When Timbuktu was the Paris of Islamic intellectuals in Africa / Going early into that good night / Putting former Haitian murderous dictator Aristide in tight handcuffs, whose job is that?

When that happens — perhaps as soon as 2006 — the test will look very different from the quiz now administered by an immigration officer, who gauges an applicant's accuracy and English proficiency with 10 or so questions on presidents, the powers of Congress and the colors of the flag, among other areas. One typical question asks which amendment of the Constitution guarantees the right to vote. Many natural-born Americans would be stumped on that one (it's the Seventh), but more than 90 percent of the applicants pass the current exam.

Now the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services wants a more standardized measure of proficiency in American history and in writing, reading and speaking English. The revised test will have some multiple-choice questions and will be part oral and part written; applicants will be asked to describe scenes shown in photographs. The stated goal of the bureau, which has taken up the duties of the old Immigration and Naturalization Service as part of the Department of Homeland Security, is to make the test more meaningful. A spokesman said it should not be harder, although that remains to be seen. It will certainly be longer.

While the bureau plans to design a new curriculum for the community-based organizations and agencies that help immigrants prepare for the test, the government will provide no money to make that process less onerous. That's unfortunate. There is already a tremendous shortage of English classes for foreign speakers, and the demand will certainly increase. Immigrants and their advocates are right to be concerned. A study published by the Urban Institute says that some 8 million people in the country are eligible to apply for citizenship now, 2.7 million in California alone. A chief reason they do not apply is difficulty with English.

While 640,000 people became naturalized citizens last year, the bureau has a backlog of 345,000 applications that have been awaiting processing for more than six months. The nationwide average for completing applications is more than one year. Revising the citizenship test is not a bad idea. But it will work only if the new test is fair, and part of much-needed improvements to the system for welcoming new Americans.

Posted Friday, April 23, 2004
Convicted assassin and rebel commander surrender in Haiti
By The Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Convicted assassin and rebel commander Louis-Jodel Chamblain surrendered Thursday in expectation of a new trial, calling himself a hero for liberating Haitians and denying he was pressured by a U.S.-backed interim government that has been criticized for forming alliances with known criminals.

Please see also: Related photos

His surrender occurred as an international donor conference opened.

Haiti's government hopes to get millions of dollars in aid to rebuild the shattered country, still reeling from a revolt that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Feb. 29.

To a few cheers from a curious crowd, Chamblain was accompanied by Haiti's interim Justice Minister Bernard Gousse, who called the surrender a "noble decision.''

It was unclear when Chamblain would go before a judge, or whether he would be freed on bail.

"I am ready to give myself up as a prisoner - to give Haiti a chance so we can build this democracy I have been fighting for,'' said Chamblain, who became teary-eyed when he accused Aristide's government of killing scores of opponents.

Since rebels - led by Chamblain and former police chief Guy Philippe - launched a revolt that drove Aristide from power and prompted an exodus of police and judges, the country has struggled to find a balance between justice and security.

Human rights groups have criticised the government for forming alliances with people like Chamblain while it persecutes Aristide supporters.

But some prominent Haitians human rights activists said Thursday liberation often comes at a cost.

"We Haitians don't get to choose our heroes,'' said human rights activist and former Culture Minister Claude Bajeux.

"The international community ... doesn't understand why (Haitian) people were so happy to see the rebels come, even if they include criminals ...''

Chamblain could be pardoned by Haiti's president or a national assembly, a possibility that worries New York-based Human Rights Watch. "We welcome the surrender,'' said Joanne Mariner of Human Rights Watch.

"We would welcome his incarceration. Our concern would be ... he won't stay in prison very long.''

Chamblain went to the neighboring Dominican Republic when a U.S. military intervention restored Aristide to power in 1994.

He returned in February to help lead a popular rebellion that forced Aristide to flee under increasing pressure from the United States and France.

Chamblain allegedly ran death squads in the last years of Jean-Claude "Baby Doc'' Duvalier's dictatorship in the late 1980s.

A former army sergeant, he is known for being a co-leader of the paramilitary Front for the Advancement of Progress of the Haitian People, which is blamed for deaths of some 3,000 civilians in the 1990s.

He was also convicted in absentia for his alleged roles in the 1993 assassination of Aristide financier Antoine Izmery - who was dragged from Mass in a church, made to kneel outside and shot in the head - and the 1994 slaughter of several Aristide supporters in the Raboteau slum of northern Gonaives, where Haiti's latest revolt erupted Feb. 5.

Haitian law provides that people judged in absentia must have a new trial if they return to the country, and Chamblain appeared confident he would be tried and go free.

Others accused of human rights abuses, including Jean-Pierre Baptiste - more popularly called Jean Tatoune - are also expected to surrender.

He was also implicated, along with Chamblain, in the 1994 killings in Gonaives.

The country's crippled judicial system is one institution Haiti's new leaders hope to rebuild with the help of the international community.

"I am going to ask you to make exceptional efforts, to go beyond the usual procedures,'' to help Haiti, interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue said at Thursday's donor conference.

He was to travel to the Dominican Republic on Friday for a meeting with President Hipolito Mejia.

The United Nations, which is set to begin a broad-based mission in June, has only received a fraction of the US$35 million it appealed for last month in emergency relief.

"We have to show that we have the possibility to help the Haitian people, and I hope that between now and June we will have good news for the Haitian people,'' U.S. Ambassador to Haiti James Foley said at the donor conference, which was attended by the United States, France, Chile, Japan, Canada, the European Union and an array of international monetary institutions.

Also at the conference was a representative of the Caribbean Community, which has yet to recognize Latortue's government, and has demanded a U.N. investigation into the circumstances of Aristide's departure.

Aristide claims the United States forced him to leave, a claim the United States has denied. Latortue suspended relations with the regional bloc shortly after Jamaica announced it would host Aristide and his family on a visit.

The embattled leader is still in Jamaica but plans to take asylum in South Africa.

Latortue was to meet later Thursday with Hugh Chumley, the Guyana-based coordinator of the Caribbean Task Force on Haiti, conference sources said.

"It is our pleasure to see the Caribbean Community here today,'' Latortue said earlier in closing the conference.

Posted Wenesday, April 21, 2004
Annan calls for new U.N. mission in Haiti
By Edith M. Lederrer, Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS, Apr. 20 - Secretary-General Kofi Annan (news - web sites) called Tuesday for a broad, new U.N. mission in Haiti to include 6,700 troops, more than 1,600 international police and experts to help turn the Caribbean nation into "a functioning democracy."

The U.N. military contingent would replace the 3,600-strong U.S.-led multinational force sent to bring stability to Haiti after a three-week rebellion ousted its first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in February. About 2,000 of them are American troops.

Annan said the transfer of authority to a U.N. force would take place by June 1, with troops in the multinational force withdrawing in phases as U.N. troops arrived "to avoid any security gap."

In a report to the Security Council, the secretary-general said it was "unfortunate that in its bicentennial year, Haiti had to call again on the international community to help it overcome a serious political and security situation."

The U.N. special envoy to Haiti, Reginald Dumas, said last month that 10 international missions to Haiti in the last decade failed because there was no sustained commitment.

The international community must allow for least 20 years to bringing peace to Haiti and raising living standards in the Western hemisphere's poorest nation, he said.

Annan told the council the last U.N. mission, which ended in 2001, was "too brief and fraught with both international and domestic hindrances."

The new mission must be a partnership with regional organizations including the Caribbean Community, known as CARICOM, and the Organization of American States, but most of all with the Haitian people, he said.

He proposed the council authorize the new mission, to be called the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti, for an initial period of 24 months.

In light of the volatile security situation and proliferation of arms throughout the country, he said the U.N. military force should provide security in all key towns and along major roads, "deter armed groups from engaging in violence," and work with the Haitian and international police to disarm fighters, Annan said.

Germany's U.N. Ambassador Gunter Pleuger, the current Security Council president, said he didn't know when members would take up the report.

U.N. peacekeeping missions are funded by member states, on a sliding scale of assessments.

The United States is the largest contributor, paying 27 percent of peacekeeping costs. The United States, Canada and Chile are the main contributors to the multinational force. Washington expects some of these troops to become part of the U.N. force, a senior U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Caribbean nations refused to join the U.S.-led multinational peacekeeping force but have not ruled out the possibility of contributing to a U.N. force. Caribbean leaders, many of whom do not recognize Haiti's interim government, have demanded the U.N. General Assembly investigate Aristide's claims the United States staged a coup and forced him from power — a claim U.S. officials deny.

Earlier this month, Brazilian Defense Minister Jose Viegas said Brazil was prepared to take command of the U.N. force and would send 1,470 troops to Haiti for six months. But Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Tuesday his country would take command only if there is "a firm commitment by the international community to rebuild Haiti."

Annan said the mission must have experts on human rights, HIV/AIDS, gender and civil affairs "to help create the necessary conditions for a functioning democracy, as well as for the establishment and strengthening of legitimate local authority throughout the country."

Haiti's interim leaders are trying to start rebuilding, but Annan said the United Nations (news - web sites) has not gotten a sufficient response to its appeal for $35 million in emergency relief needed to help the shattered country.

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press

Recruits stampede Police Academy in Haiti
By Michelle Faul, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Apr. 20 - Police fired tear gas and U.S. Marines blocked the entrance of the police academy in the Haitian capital on Tuesday as hundreds of candidates stormed the building during a recruiting drive.

The police used batons to beat back recruits and called off the recruiting drive after several people reportedly were injured in the incident.

Haiti's interim government began the drive on Monday in an effort to replenish the nation's depleted police force. Hundreds of officers, fearing reprisal attacks because of their loyalties to ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, fled their posts when rebels launched an armed rebellion that ousted Aristide on Feb. 29.

The government fired 150 of the former officers last week for leaving their posts or for ethics violations. Dozens more have fled the country.

Most of Haiti's 8 million people are without jobs and live on less than $1 a day, fueling desperation among the masses.

"We were shoved back. The police attacked us," said Louis Hubert, 29, an electrician and plumber who was among the potential recruits. "There were lots of gun shots. There was also tear gas, plus they beat us with their batons."

Until elections are held next year, the interim government has said it will work to create much-needed jobs in the country.

But for elections to be held, an electoral committee must first be selected.

Ten hours of meetings Monday ended in a stalemate. Prime Minister Gerard Latortue said Tuesday an electoral council would be named later this week with or without the participation of Aristide's Lavalas party.

Lavalas had refused to participate in the council unless several demands were met, including the release of party members arrested in corruption and murder investigations, and the lifting of a travel ban on Lavalas officials.

Latortue said Monday they had come to an accord on everything except the timing of Lavalas naming its representative to the nine-member council, made up of officials from political parties and civic societies.

"They said they would do it as soon as possible but that's not good enough," Latortue said. Still, he told Radio Vision 2000 that he would "keep the door open for them if they want to come."

Former Aristide Cabinet minister Leslie Voltaire said Lavalas made many concessions but wanted several more days to name a representative.

"We're asking for a little affirmative action if you want to create a climate of reconciliation," Voltaire told The Associated Press. "But we also told the prime minister 'You do not control the country; You cannot even collect the garbage.'"

He said Lavalas would not agree to name a candidate to the electoral council until after Latortue sets up a commission to investigate party member arrests, not before.

Crime has risen since Aristide and many of the country's police fled.

Haitian radio stations and newspapers logged dozens of complaints that the 3,600-strong U.S.-led multinational force sent to bring stability has not ended kidnappings, robberies and reprisal killings.

On Monday, Chileans in a peacekeeping force that includes French and Canadian troops announced they would deploy in the strategic central city of Hinche, expanding the presence in the Central Plateau region that is under the control of several hundred rebels and former members of the army that first ousted Aristide in 1991.

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press

Haitian ex-rebels challenge U.S. on reviving army
By Joseph Guler Delva, Reuters Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Apr. 20 (Reuters) - Haiti's interim government will allow many former soldiers who drove out its elected president to become police officers, but a rebel leader said on Tuesday his men would revive the disbanded army instead.

"We are the Haitian army and we exist," said ex-army Col. Remissainthe Ravix, who fought alongside rebel chiefs Guy Philippe and Louis Jodel Chamblain during an uprising in February that sent President Jean-Bertrand Aristide into exile.

Ravix, who claims to command 1,681 former soldiers, told Reuters that none of his men would join the police.

"We are a constitutional force just like them," he said, surrounded by heavily armed men in camouflage uniforms.

A man hoping to join the Haitian National Police was killed on Tuesday and many were hurt in a stampede as thousands of Haitians sought jobs with the force, a police academy official said.

Gerry Prophete, 23, was crushed to death, said Jean Yonel Trecil, inspector general of the police academy in Port-au-Prince.

Eight people were hospitalized with injuries, many more were hurt and recruiting was temporarily suspended, he said.

The stampede occurred a day after Haitian authorities began recruiting police to fill a security gap that has worsened since Aristide's departure.

"The crime rate has increased. It is a fact. But the problem is that the police don't have enough numbers," Justice Minister Bernard Gousse said.

Haiti had about 3,500 policemen before the uprising. But many fled the country or abandoned their posts in fear of their lives during the revolt. Others have been fired by the interim authorities.

Gousse said some 20,000 officers would be needed to police Haiti, which now has just 2,000 police for 8 million people.

Haiti's military overthrew Aristide, the Caribbean nation's first democratically elected president, shortly after he took office in 1991. Aristide disbanded the army after he was returned to power by a U.S.-led military invasion in 1994.

He began serving a second five-year term in 2001 but was driven into exile on Feb. 29 amid the uprising led by rebels, many of them former soldiers. More than 200 people were killed during the uprising.


Haiti is tentatively set to hold elections next year. The interim government has said it will leave it up to the next government to decide the fate of the army.

The United States, which pressured Aristide to step down in February, has urged Haiti not to revive its army, which has a long history of launching coups.

Ravix said the United States has no right to interfere "with our efforts to take back possession of our barracks."

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report to the Security Council that stabilizing Haiti will require a U.N. peacekeeping mission of more than 8,000 troops and civilian police over the next two years. Ravix said Aristide's decision to dismantle the army was unconstitutional and called on interim authorities to pay the former soldiers 10 years' back salary.

"They have to pay us because the army never ceased to exist," said Ravix.

The interim government said it would let rebel ex-soldiers into the police force, but would screen them to determine if they had been involved in serious human rights abuses.

Thousands of people lined up in front of the police academy's gate all day on Monday and on Tuesday trying to register to fill 800 open slots.

Some said they want to become police officers to serve their country. Others said they had no alternative.

"I just want to get a job," said Paul Gelin, 24, who had been at the gate of the academy since before dawn on Tuesday but could not get in.

Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited

Posted Monday, April 19, 2004
U.S., France blocks UN probe of Aristide ouster
By OneWorld.net

UNITED NATIONS, Apr 13 (IPS) - The United States and France have intimidated Caribbean countries into delaying an official request for a probe into the murky circumstances under which Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted from power in February, according to diplomatic sources here.

Please see also: A Haitian jounalist was killed, but a film keeps his spirit alive / When illegitimate power leads a sadistic dictator like Aristide to rampant corruption and murder, he must be put in tight handcuffs ... the handcuffs serve as general deterrents

The two veto-wielding permanent members of the 15-nation Security Council have signalled to Caribbean nations that they do not want a U.N. probe of Aristide's ouster.

Any attempts to bring the issue or even introduce a resolution before the Security Council will either be blocked or vetoed by both countries, council sources told IPS.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has been caught in the middle of the dispute, says he is unable to act unless he has a formal request to do so either by the Security Council or the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM), of which Haiti is a member.

''We have read news reports that CARICOM wants a U.N. investigation. But unless we receive an official request either from CARICOM or from the Security Council, we cannot act on it,'' U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told IPS.

Aristide left Haiti in the midst of a violent uprising Feb. 29. Now in Jamaica, the country's first democratically elected leader maintains he was forced to resign under pressure from Washington, with strong backing from France. Both countries have dismissed the charge.

''I don't think any purpose would be served by an inquiry,'' U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters during a 24-hour visit to Haiti last week. ''We were on the verge of a bloodbath and President Aristide found himself in great danger,'' he said.

At its summit meeting Mar. 27, CARICOM heads of government ''reiterated their call for an investigation under the auspices of the United Nations.'' But despite that announcement, the group has been dragging its feet over a formal request for a probe.

''The reasons are obvious,'' says a Caribbean diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. ''We are under tremendous pressure not to follow up on our request.''

Reginald Dumas, the U.N. special adviser on Haiti, was quoted as saying he was surprised at CARICOM's delay.

Asked about it, CARICOM Secretary-General Edwin Carrington said last week the body was considering various modalities and strategies. These would be disclosed at ''the appropriate moment,'' he added.

A second Caribbean diplomat told IPS that CARICOM was studying the ''wider ramifications'' of its request before rushing into it.

A two-day meeting of the 15-member CARICOM and U.N. officials that began Monday also failed to resolve the issue. The gathering focused on ways to strengthen cooperation between Caribbean nations and the world body.

Addressing the meeting Monday, U.N Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette said the situation in Haiti looks even more daunting now than 10 years ago.

''Weapons have proliferated and drug trafficking has gained a foothold,'' according to Frechette. ''Haitians are frustrated and disappointed with the international community as much as with their own leadership,'' she added.

CARICOM foreign ministers are scheduled to discuss Haiti again at meeting in Barbados scheduled for Apr. 22-23.

In a statement issued last month, CARICOM said, ''In the light of contradictory reports still in circulation concerning the departure of President Aristide from office, heads of government (of CARICOM) believed that it is in the compelling interest of the international community that the preceding events and all the circumstances surrounding the transfer of power from a constitutionally elected head of state, be fully investigated.''

One constitutional expert who closely monitors the United Nations says it is obvious where the blame lies.

''It is clear that the United States and France violated the U.N. charter as well as the 1973 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons, with respect to their criminal treatment of President Aristide'', says Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law.

Boyle told IPS that Aristide still remains the lawful president of Haiti, a member state of the United Nations. He said Annan should have publicly taken that position, and the Security Council should have demanded Aristide's immediate return to Haiti.

''The fact that they did not demonstrates the continuing and further degradation of the Office of the Secretary-General, the U.N. Secretariat and the Security Council under this current regime of U.S. hegemony,'' said Boyle, author of 'Destroying World Order.'

Just days prior to Aristide's flight from Haiti the Security Council denied his request for military intervention to quell the uprising, but it authorised an international military force just hours after he left the country.

Boyle said it is important for CARICOM to take the matter to the 191-member U.N. General Assembly, ''in order to uphold the integrity of the U.N. Charter, which Annan and the Security Council have repeatedly failed and refused to do.''

Boyle also urged the Caribbean nations and other states to sue both the United States and France for violating the 1973 Convention before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague, ''in order to have the World Court as well condemn what these two malefacting states have done to Haiti and President Aristide, and to secure his return to Haiti by means of an ICJ order.''

''The alternative is even more international chaos and anarchy, and a continuing gradual descent into world war -- like what happened to the League of Nations in the 1930s,'' Boyle added.

Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and a special adviser to Annan, has called on the United Nations to restore Aristide to power.

To trained observers, he said last month, the events surrounding the ouster of Aristide ''have the hallmarks of a U.S.-led operation against Mr Aristide, similar to the 1991 coup against him during the administration of George HW Bush, in which the U.S. government fingerprints abounded (including thugs who subsequently acknowledged being on the payroll of the Central Intelligence Agency.''

The situation in Haiti clearly shows it is the Security Council, not the United Nations, which is really ineffective, Joan Russow of the Global Compliance Research Project told IPS.

''The Security Council has continued to violate the principle of sovereign equality in the U.N. Charter. The Council has been discredited primarily because of the use of the veto by the United States and specifically by the U.S. practice of intimidating, cajoling and offering cheque-book diplomacy.''

In the case of Haiti, she said, the General Assembly should request the International Court of Justice in The Hague to examine the U.S. intervention.

Copyright © 2004 OneWorld.net

Peacekeepers head to rebel zone in Haiti
By Michelle Faul, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Apr. 19 - Chilean troops are preparing to take up posts in central Haiti, extending the peacekeeping presence where as many as 400 rebels still hold sway, a military spokesman said Monday.

Haiti's interim leaders, meanwhile, met with former members of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's government to form a council that will organize 2005 elections.

Some 3,600 peacekeepers from the United States, France, Canada and Chile are trying to help Haiti's meager police force, after hundreds of officers fled amid a three-week popular rebellion that ousted Aristide on Feb. 29.

To extend the peacekeepers' reach into areas of rebel control, Chilean troops will deploy next week to Hinche, a central town of 100,000 that straddles a strategic crossroads, said Chilean military spokesman Lt. Col. Renato Rondanelli.

The rebels, led by former Haitian Army Master Sgt. Joseph Jean-Baptiste, who seized the town in the second week of the rebellion, have accepted the plan.

"He is ready to allow the Chilean forces to deploy and to do patrols," Rondanelli said.

The vacuum of leadership caused by the rebellion has forced peacekeepers to negotiate with rebels, many of whom like Jean-Baptiste come from the former Haitian army disbanded by Aristide when he was first ousted in a 1991 coup.

In many towns, the rebels outnumber the police. In Hinche, there are between 200 to 400 former soldiers and only 15 officers from the demoralized police force, Rondanelli said.

Meanwhile, Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue was holding private talks with former Cabinet Minister Leslie Voltaire and other officials from Aristide's Lavalas Family party to get them to name a representative to a provisional electoral council.

After nine hours of negotiations, Voltaire said the two sides were drafting a memorandum of understanding that would allow Lavalas to name a representative, which the party so far has refused to do unless several demands are met.

Voltaire did not say what was in the memorandum but said one of the Lavalas demands was to end the alleged repression of party members by the new U.S.-backed government. Dozens of former government and party members have been prohibited from leaving the country.

Latortue has denied persecuting Lavalas members but blamed armed Aristide militants, otherwise known as "chimeres," for weeks of insecurity marked by kidnappings and violence.

"Chimeres are the first that should be put on the ropes," Latortue said.

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press

Haiti drops 'ridiculous' $22 billion claim
By Joseph Guyler Delva, Reuters Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) - Haiti's new U.S.-backed leader said on Sunday he had dropped a "ridiculous" demand by ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide for France to return $22 billion he said the Caribbean nation was forced to pay its colonial masters after gaining independence in 1804.

Aristide, driven into exile on Feb. 29 in the face of a month-long revolt and U.S. and French pressure, had launched a vigorous campaign to get back 90 million gold francs Haiti paid Paris in reparations after its slaves drove out the French.

At today's values -- and totting up interest to the last cent -- Aristide claimed the money was now worth nearly $22 billion, and would go a long way to helping the poorest country in the Americas get back on its feet.

"This claim was illegal, ridiculous and was made only for political reasons," Prime Minister Gerard Latortue told Reuters, saying Haiti had no interest in maintaining an atmosphere of confrontation with France.

"This matter is closed. What we need now is increased cooperation with France that could help us build roads, hospitals, schools and other infrastructure," he said.

About 1,000 French soldiers have joined an international force led by U.S. Marines in a U.N.-sanctioned mission to restore peace in Haiti after the revolt, in which more than 200 people died.

The rebellion was begun by an armed gang that once supported Aristide -- Haiti's first democratically elected leader -- and was soon joined by former soldiers and right-wing death squad leaders who returned from exile.

Latortue, a former U.N. bureaucrat, was named by a council of eminent Haitians to lead a government until new elections.

Since Aristide's flight, a ubiquitous government-sponsored jingle that went, "Reparations, restitution we demand, France pay me my money to celebrate my freedom," has vanished from the airwaves.

Some historians say the burden of compensation for plantations and even slaves paid by Haiti to Paris between 1826 and 1893 ensured that what had been France's richest colonial treasure would become one of the world's poorest countries.

Many Aristide supporters believe France supported what they saw as a U.S.-backed "coup" against Aristide because of irritation over the reparations claim.

French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie denied those allegations during a visit this month and said France's decision to get involved in the international force was motivated by a desire to help Haiti avoid an even greater disaster.

Latortue said talks he had had with officials from both the United States and France gave him hope they would support Haiti as it tries to rebuild. Secretary of State Colin Powell also visited Haiti in the past few weeks.

Encouraged by former settlers, who spent years pushing for a new invasion after rebellious slaves defeated Napoleon's troops on the battlefield, France imposed the indemnity on the government of Jean-Pierre Boyer in 1825.

Some historians say France made it clear that was what the former colony had to pay to avoid a new invasion. France only agreed to recognize Haiti's independence after it agreed to pay the money.

Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited

Posted Saturday, April 17, 2004
U.N.: Haiti faces massive funding shortfall
By The Associated Press

GENEVA, Apr. 17 - The United Nations is finding little donor interest in helping ordinary Haitians fight grinding poverty as the country emerges from political crisis, aid officials said Friday.

The global body has gathered just US$7 million of the US$35 million it has budgeted to help the struggling Caribbean nation, said Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

"Its vital that we get this money because even if the political situation is closer to normal, the humanitarian situation is not," Byrs told reporters. "The political situation just made the poor poorer."

Months of political strife in Haiti turned into open rebellion earlier this year, as opponents of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide seized towns and advanced on the capital, Port-au-Prince. Aristide left Haiti on Feb. 29.

The United Nations and a U.S.-led multinational force are trying to stabilize the country, and a new interim government is in power.

Most of Haiti’s 8 million inhabitants are jobless or without regular work and live on less than US$1 day. One child in 10 dies before reaching the age of 5 and almost 30 percent are stunted because they do not get enough to eat.

Day-to-day economic hardship has been worsened by ecological destruction and natural disasters. The country is nearly 90 percent deforested, causing erosion, depleting topsoil and destroying farmland.

Around 270,000 people rely on U.N. handouts to stave off chronic malnutrition.

Fighting hampered aid deliveries during the anti-Aristide revolt. But ordinary criminals now prey on aid convoys, sometimes wearing stolen police uniforms and halting aid trucks at roadblocks.

"The Haitian people need help now," said Christiane Berthiaume, spokeswoman for the World Food Program. "We can’t wait until full stability returns."  

Posted Wednesday, April 14, 2004
Local brace for backlash of new Haiti govt.
By Stevenson Jacobs, Associated Press Writer

PORT SALUT, Haiti, April 13 - For years, residents of this remote fishing town enjoyed luxuries uncommon to most parts of Haiti — paved roads, electricity, clean sewers and health clinics. The reason, Haitians say, is simple: Jean-Bertrand Aristide was born here.

Please see also related photos

But locals fear the relative good times could be over for this coastal enclave on Haiti's southern peninsula, following a bloody uprising that led to Aristide's departure Feb. 29.

Work on several projects approved by the ousted leader have been on hold since the revolt, worrying residents that they'll be subject to a backlash by Haiti's new U.S.-backed government.

Among stalled works are a new road, a school, a hospital and a museum honoring Haiti's peasants. Complicating matters, most jobs on projects were given to locals, depriving them now of desperately needed income.

"People used to be proud to be from the same town as the president," said Albert Jean, a 33-year-old teacher. "Now only God knows what will happen to us."

Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue's government insists the town won't be punished for its association with Aristide, while conceding there's no money for any projects. Officials charge that up to $1 billion was pilfered from state coffers under Aristide, although an audit is still pending.

"There are no funds at all," Cabinet Minister Robert Ulysse said. "Every project in the country has stopped since the crisis. But I can assure that (Port Salut's) projects won't be neglected because they were being done by the former government."

Outsiders don't need a map to know when they've reached the town about 150 miles west of the capital. The spine-jarring and crater-pocked road leading in from Les Cayes, the nearest city, abruptly smooths out into a bed of bricked concrete lined with palm trees, electricity lines and pastel-colored buildings.

It's changed a lot since Aristide was born here to peasants on July 15, 1953. Though the family moved to Port-au-Prince while he was still a toddler, they returned for the summers.

In his 1992 book "Aristide: An Autobiography," the former slum priest described his native village, set in the hills overlooking once verdant fields now stripped bare by deforestation.

"There are no trees," Aristide wrote. "There are neither roads, nor water, nor electricity."

Hoping to change that after becoming president, Aristide embarked on infrastructure projects to lure tourists to Port Salut, a town of a few thousand known for white-sand beaches, cockfights and succulent spiny-tailed lobster.

The latest, including the museum and a potable water plan, were to be completed this year to mark Haiti's 200 years of independence from France, according to a billboard posted in town with Aristide's name on it.

But construction stopped shortly after the rebellion erupted Feb. 5.

Now a modern, vanilla-colored schoolhouse sits abandoned, not far from a row of wooden shacks. Next door, the nearly complete stone-brick Peasants' Museum sits atop an ancient-looking cemetery where several of Aristide's ancestors supposedly are buried.

"These projects were supposed to be for everyone. We just hope the new government won't forget about us," said Jeles Emile, a 40-year-old corn farmer who did shovel work on some projects.

Despite Aristide's good graces, most in Port Salut remain impoverished, eking out a living by selling fish or growing corn, peanuts and manioc root.

Before the crisis, the projects employed up to 300 residents in jobs from digging ditches to paving roads. Emile Lalousse, a 30-year-old lobster vendor, said his business had finally picked up because of the construction.

"Now I'm back to rock-bottom," he lamented, standing barefoot and shirtless in the deserted market. "Life has never been easy here, but these projects gave us a little hope."

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press

U.S. ambassador says Haiti's Aristide was sad and passive, not combative about ouster
By The Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Apr. 13 - Jean-Bertrand Aristide appeared resigned but philosophical about his imminent ouster, and surprisingly without fight, U.S. Ambassador James Foley said in an interview in which he reflected on the Haitian leader’s last hours in office.

Foley also told The Associated Press Monday that Haiti will remain a security risk for the United States as long as it cannot sustain itself.

While the United States has no plans for additional monetary aid this fiscal year, Foley said he thought it would provide long-term support for the country that poses a drug and illegal migration threat to the United States.

Foley said he had sad conversations with Aristide through the night before Haiti’s leader fled hastily Feb. 29.

Aristide later charged that Haiti’s only democratically elected leader in 200 years was forced from power by a U.S. "coup d’etat" against his Caribbean country.

"We talked all night, at least four times ..." Foley said, in his most detailed public comments on the ousted leader’s frame of mind at the time. "It was a very poignant series of conversations. I saluted him for putting the interests of the country first. It was a friendly conversation. I told him how very sad I thought it was that this is happening ... It was a very sad series of conversations."

He said Aristide "never challenged our position" that there would be a bloodbath if he did not leave as rebels who had overrun half the country in three weeks closed in on Port-au-Prince, the capital. Some 300 people died in the uprising.

"What was surprising was his passivity and philosophical resignation."

Foley said Aristide appeared more concerned about his security, and that his imminent departure be kept secret.

"My own feeling was that Aristide had already decided to leave," Foley said. "He didn’t need convincing..."

Aristide has charged that the United States stripped him of his security, saying the embassy told his U.S. security agents that they had to leave the country and refused to allow the California company that provided bodyguards, under a contract approved by the U.S. State Department, to send additional agents.

U.S. officials have said only that they told Aristide the United States would not protect him if rebels attacked. Later, U.S. officials said they could not uphold a leader they accuse of ordering attacks on political opponents and condoning drug-trafficking.

The United States has offered no evidence for that last charge and Foley said he did not discuss that issue with Aristide.

Within hours of Aristide’s departure, U.S. Marines arrived to spearhead a multinational force that now includes 3,600 peacekeepers, including French and Canadians, to stabilize the country.

Caribbean leaders refused to contribute to the U.S.-led force, protesting that no one responded to their urgent plea for international troops to deploy earlier to support Aristide. They have demanded a United Nations inquiry into the circumstances of Aristide’s departure, saying his charges bode ill for any democratically elected leader who might fall foul of Washington.

Some Caribbean countries are, however, considering sending troops to Haiti once the U.S.-led force is replaced by Brazilian-led U.N. peacekeepers in early June.

Foley indicated the end of the U.S.-led mission would not end Washington’s engagement.

"Haiti is at our doorstep," he said. "Clearly, Haiti’s ills can affect the United States in negative ways. A country that is unable to sustain itself so close to the United States is a national security issue, as well as a humanitarian concern."

Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, is a major drug transshipment point for Colombian cocaine to the United States and a source of illegal migration.

The United States deployed 20,000 troops here in 1994 to put an end to a brutal military dictatorship, halt a flood of tens of thousands of boat people to Florida and to restore Aristide.

Foley described Aristide’s legacy as "horrendous," saying it poses major challenges for a U.S.-backed interim government that has promised elections next year.

Key problems include armed pro-Aristide gangs and rebels who refuse to disarm until Haiti’s disbanded army is restored.

"Clearly they are going to need assistance to stand up to armed elements on the Aristide side and also on the rebel side," Foley said.

Posted Saturday, April 10, 2004
U.S. finds $1.1 million in coke on ship from Haiti
By Reuters

MIAMI, Apr. 9 (Reuters) - U.S. border control and immigration officials said on Friday they found 130 pounds of cocaine valued at $1.1 million on a freighter that arrived on the Miami River from Haiti.

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The freighter was the same Panamanian-registered ship intercepted by the Coast Guard in February that Florida's governor said had been hijacked by 21 Haitian migrants amid an armed revolt against Haiti's president, according to Zachary Mann, spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The coastal freighter Margot, which was released after the February interception, arrived in Miami from Haiti's northern city of Cap-Haitien on Thursday.

Officials boarded the ship on suspicion it was transporting narcotics, Mann said. A search of the 199-foot freighter uncovered 59 kilogram-sized packages of cocaine under the cargo deck, according to the spokesman.

The ship's seven crew members -- six Filipinos and one Panamanian -- were interviewed and sent back to their countries. Mann said that indicated the crew did not know the ship carried cocaine.

The freighter was seized, but no arrests have been made, he said.

The border patrol agency placed the cocaine's wholesale value at $1.1 million, but Mann said it carried a much greater street value.

He said U.S. officials had intercepted more than 2,000 pounds (900 kg) of cocaine coming from Haiti so far this year -- more than the amount seized in the similar period a year ago.

Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited

Hemisphere's weakest economy sinks to new lows after Haitian president's ouster
By The Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti_Grasping a grimy wad of Haitian gourdes, Wendy Jean runs toward a car, calling out "Thirty-four gourdes to the dollar !" The driver slowly pulls out a $100 bill as he argues for a better rate.

Since President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted from power Feb. 29, the Western Hemisphere’s weakest economy has sunk to new depths and put the currency on a roller coaster ride. Haitians are suffering the gyrations.

"It should be 36 or more," Jean says of the exchange rate. "That’s what it was yesterday."

Haiti’s feeble economy was disrupted by a three-week rebellion that forced Aristide to flee the country. Before U.S. and other foreign troops arrived in early March, many business owners lost their shops in looting. Others closed.

Importers, who use dollars to buy products from the United States, Panama and the neighboring Dominican Republic, slowed their buying.

With little demand for dollars, the gourde soared in mid-March, climbing to 20 per dollar in some places. Within a few days, it dropped back to 40 per dollar.

Theoretically, the gourde’s burst of strength would have triggered lower prices. If dollars are cheaper, importers can buy more product with less money.

But the opposite happened because importers stopped importing during the rebellion.

"Since many stores lost their goods or stopped importing, the shortage raised prices," said Max Marcelin, president of IDG Consulting, a Haitian-based firm.

When Boniface Alexandre took over as Haiti’s interim president, he froze all government spending.

The freeze was intended to stop corruption by ensuring ousted officials couldn’t keep spending public funds. The side effect has been less money circulating because the government is Haiti’s largest employer.

Most spending resumed only this week.

In March, the government spent 200 million gourdes (US$ 6.2 million), according to the Professional Bankers Association of Haiti. That’s compared to between 800 million gourdes (US$ 24,719,000) and 1 billion gourdes ($30,899,000) in a normal month.

"Life has gotten really hard," said Christela Pierre, 33, a mother of two who sells bananas in the street. "Nobody is buying anything and prices have gone up."

Under Aristide, Haiti’s economy was anything but robust. Inflation hit 42 percent, the national debt reached a record $1.4 billion and the gourde had been plunging for years, at one point reaching 55 per dollar. The country imported most products and foodstuffs, and most people of workable age were unemployed.

Haiti’s economy never really recovered from U.N. sanctions during a 1991-1994 coup regime. The country’s biggest source of foreign currency is remittances from millions of Haitians living abroad.

Haiti sunk deeper into despair when international financial organizations suspended more than $500 million in aid and most donors froze direct aid after Aristide’s party swept flawed legislative elections in 2000.

Foreign aid may be released for interim Prime Minister Gerard LaTortue’s government. Money traders say Haiti’s currency will keep fluctuating until they know how much is coming.

During a one-day visit Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said US$9 million would be released for a special Organization of American States mission.

Powell said the United States would spend an estimated $55 million on economic and humanitarian assistance this year in Haiti. The United Nations wants developed countries to donate $35 million but has raised $6 million.

Lawless underscores Haiti challenge
By Stevenson Jacobs, Associated Press Writer

LES CAYES, Haiti, Apr. 9 - More than a month after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted and a new government installed, Haitians in this dusty port town of 50,000 are still terrified to venture out on the streets.

Here, as in countless other Haitian towns, the battle for control is still being waged, despite the presence of a 3,500-strong, U.S.-led peacekeeping force.

"The person in charge is the person with the biggest gun," said a young doctor at Les Cayes' Immaculate Conception Hospital, which has treated dozens of people wounded in clashes between pro- and anti-Aristide forces. He refused to give his name for safety reasons.

The turmoil underscores the Herculean task ahead of Haiti's U.S.-backed — and broke — interim government as it tries to restore order following an anti-Aristide uprising that left more than 300 dead.

U.S. troops have passed through Les Cayes, on the country's southeast peninsula, just three times, including once this week, residents said. The peacekeepers ran sweeps and conferred with outgunned police about sending more troops but have yet to do so.

Meanwhile, a band of about 20 civilians and some ex-soldiers from Haiti's former army have taken up guarding Les Cayes against attacks by armed gangs loyal to Aristide known as "chimeres."

Dubbed the Front, the gang patrols Les Cayes' labyrinthine shantytowns and dispenses justice on the spot. It has executed at least five people accused of stealing, usually sacks of rice or sugar, said police Inspector Joseph Avril.

Police aren't investigating because they have no resources, Avril said. Most spend their shifts sitting helplessly outside the police station.

"We're working to get them to disarm, but it takes time," Avril shrugged.

Jude Silias, a 32-year-old Front member, defended the executions as the only way to maintain order in Les Cayes. Businesses needing protection have donated guns to the group, he said.

"The police are too frightened to go out, so we have to do their jobs for them," said Silias, wearing an old camouflage ball cap, a soccer jersey and a gold watch. "We're fighting for our country."

Aristide fled Haiti on Feb. 29. Three days before his ouster, vandals looted the police station, stealing guns, freeing more than 100 prisoners and forcing most officers to flee, Avril said. Several businesses were ransacked in Les Cayes, some 110 miles west of Port-au-Prince, the capital.

About 20 police returned to the streets over the last two weeks, but they're poorly armed, have just one vehicle and rarely make arrests because the city jail was all but destroyed.

"The justice system in Les Cayes is sleeping right now," Avril said in his office, stripped by looters of everything but a desk that was too big to carry out the door. "We're still timid, but slowly we're getting back out there."

Many residents seem to support the Front, which says it's loosely aligned with rebels who hold sway over northern Haiti. Some citizens say only the sustained presence of foreign peacekeepers will bring security. Plans are under way for a U.N. peacekeeping force to replace the U.S.-led troops.

"This new government must really not care about us or the (U.S.) Marines would be here by now," said businessman Richard Charles, whose hotel was riddled with gunfire by vandals. "If the Marines don't come, there will be more trouble."

Haiti's new government is trying to boost the number of police on the streets and disarm the country's myriad gangs, says Justice Minister Bernard Gousse. Recruitment could take months, he conceded.

A nationwide peacekeepers' disarmament campaign has barely made headway. The Front, for example, brandishes pistols, machetes and batons as it patrols Les Cayes in old camouflage clothing.

Insecurity has taken its toll. Businesses close early and many don't venture out after dark. Some streets are barricaded with brittle conch shells.

"It's like living in a prison for many people," said Darline Domercant, an aid worker for Terra Les Hommes, a Lauzanne, Switzerland-based nongovernment group cares for malnourished children. "Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow."

Downtown, Love Constance's indoor market was destroyed by looters. He wants to press charges against those he believes were responsible.

"I want justice. But in Haiti, those things usually don't work out," Constance said.

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press

French, U.S. troops detain Haitian rebel leaders
By The Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Apr. 9 (AP) -- A U.S.-led multinational force tasked with bringing stability to Haiti stepped up its efforts by arresting two top rebel figures in separate raids, officials announced Friday.

French peacekeepers and Haitian police briefly detained Wilford Ferdinand, a rebel commander who had been accused of kidnapping a Haitian police officer, French military spokesman Maj. Xavier Pons said. U.S. and French troops, meanwhile, helped Haitian police arrest Jean Robert, a rebel sympathizer and gang leader accused of terrorizing supporters of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in northeast Haiti.

The arrests this week marked the first time the U.S.-led multinational force acted against leaders in the three-week rebellion that led to Aristide’s ouster.

Robert was arrested April 3 in Ouanaminthe, a remote northern town on the Dominican border. He was placed on a U.S. military helicopter and flown to the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince, where he was awaiting charges, Pons said Friday.

U.S. military officials had no immediate comment. Ferdinand, known as "Ti-Will," was detained Wednesday at a hotel in the northern city of Gonaives, a rebel stronghold, Pons said. He didn’t resist arrest and was released four hours later at the request of police in Port-au-Prince.

Ferdinand claimed he took the unidentified officer into custody to prevent him from being lynched, Pons said. Troops and police seized 10 weapons during the raid.

The officer’s whereabouts weren’t immediately known. Ferdinand couldn’t immediately be reached in Gonaives for comment.

Max Isaac, spokesman for the Haitian National Police in Port-au-Prince, said he didn’t know why Ti-Will had been arrested but that he hadn’t been charged with any crime.

Isaac said Jean had been convicted of bringing stolen cars into Haiti from the Dominican Republic. He escaped when rebels took over a prison. The Dominican government may ask for Jean’s extradition as it investigates the February slayings of two Dominican soldiers along the border.

The arrests marked an increased involvement by some 3,600 troops under the U.S.-led multinational force, which previously had been limited to patrols and trying to disarm dozens of militias.

A Brazilian-led U.N. peacekeeping force, expected to include both soldiers and civilian police, is to take over in June.

Rebels hold sway in many areas outside Port-au-Prince despite the arrival of French peacekeepers in Gonaives and other northern towns three weeks ago. U.S. troops patrol the dangerous streets of the capital. Haiti’s police force is outgunned, underfunded and demoralized.

A year ago, the 27-year-old known Ferdinand was terrorizing Aristide opponents from his base in the Raboteau slum of Gonaives, Haiti’s fourth largest city.

During the February rebellion, Ferdinand became the rebel-appointed police chief of Gonaives, where his militia led the uprising that spread to nearly a dozen cities and towns before Aristide fled Haiti on February 29.

Ferdinand’s self-styled Cannibal Army turned against Aristide after gang leader Amiot Metayer was assassinated in September. It was helped by former soldiers of an army that Aristide disbanded in 1995. The militia killed at least 30 people in attacks on government officials and towns.

Ferdinand and other gang members say Aristide armed them to terrorize political enemies and accused the former government of ordering Metayer’s killing to prevent him publishing allegedly damaging information about Aristide.

Former government leaders and members of Aristide’s Lavalas Family party had accused the U.S.-backed interim government of Prime Minister Gerard Latortue of targeting them and ignoring rebels with criminal records or human rights violations.

On Tuesday, police arrested Aristide’s interior minister, Jocelerme Privert, on suspicion of orchestrating the killings of several people presumed to be Aristide opponents. Privert was the highest ranking official to be arrested since Aristide’s departure.

Aristide, currently in Jamaica, claims that the United States coerced him into leaving. The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush insists that Aristide, facing a growing rebellion, left Haiti voluntarily.

Posted Thursday, April 8, 2004
Group calls for investigation of Congressional Black Caucus
By Talon News

An African-American group is calling for an investigation into the relationship between the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and deposed Haitian leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

The Brotherhood Organization for a New Destiny (BOND), a family-focused, community-based organization in Los Angeles founded by Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson, issued a letter (the letter) to Rep. Joel Hefley (R-CO), Chairman of the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, asking for a formal investigation of the legislative caucus.

Please see also: AIDS is fastly killing Haitian children / Push is on to give legal immigrants vote in New York / Putting former Haitian murderous dictator Aristide in tight handcuffs, whose job is that?

BOND’s request is in response to actions and comments by members of the CBC regarding American policy toward Haiti, particularly accusations that White House and State Department officials orchestrated the "forced" resignation of Aristide. These lawmakers are demanding conclusive evidence that Aristide was not forced out of office.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Charles Rangel (D-NY) have taken the lead in calling for a congressional investigation into the circumstances of Aristide’s departure.

Waters also accused Undersecretary of State for Latin America Roger Noriega -- whom she called "a Haiti-hater" -- of being behind the troubles there.

"The way I see it is they came to his house, uninvited," Waters said. "They had not only the force of the embassy but the Marines with them. They made it clear that he had to go now or he would be killed."

Other CBC members have also stated that they believe Mr. Aristide was kidnapped. Rep. Major Owens (D-NY) said that Aristide’s departure was a "terrorist takeover."

White House officials called the allegations that the former Haitian leader was kidnapped "absurd" and "nonsense." Secretary of State Colin Powell stated that Aristide was not kidnapped and that the claims were "baseless" and "unfounded."

Following Aristide’s departure, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told Talon News, "The crisis in Haiti was largely the making of Mr. Aristide. ... It was a failed government that condoned official corruption -- including drug trafficking."

BOND’S letter says, "We are seriously concerned about the inflammatory language and tone of these accusations. By misinterpreting the truth about what happened in the last hours before Aristide left office these lawmakers are inciting hatred, suspicion, and possibly violence towards the White House, State Department officials, and the new administration in Haiti."

The group finds it is especially troubling that Waters is actively lobbying for Aristide. It believes she is knowingly fomenting hostility towards U.S. and Haitian officials and calls her conduct "irresponsible behavior -- especially post 9-11."

BOND says, "We find it disturbing that the Congressional Black Caucus is backing a corrupt and brutal dictator like Aristide. Over the past decade the U.S. has sent nearly $1 Billion in aid to Haiti. Yet, Haiti is still the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. About 65% of Haitians cannot read. Up until his last days in office, allegations of corruption and drug smuggling were swirling around Aristide."

The group also says, "We believe it is irresponsible and offensive that CBC members, under the guise of representing the American public’s interest, are doing the bidding for a man whom most Haitians despise ; a man with a documented history of violence."

BOND’s letter points out that within the past seven weeks Waters made several trips to Haiti and accompanied Aristide to Jamaica against the advice of the White House.

The group is questioning the nature of the relationship between CBC members and Aristide. It also asks whether CBC members, their families, or friends have business interest in Haiti.

Posted Tuesday, April 6, 2004
Haiti arrests ex-Aristide Minister over massacre
By Simon Gardner, Reuters Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Apr. 6 (Reuters) - Haiti arrested the former interior minister of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Tuesday on charges of coordinating a massacre during a bloody revolt that toppled the government, the new justice minister said.

Former Interior Minister Jocelerme Privert turned himself in to police early on Tuesday after an arrest warrant was issued, becoming the first minister of Aristide's fallen government to be detained.

The arrest came the day after Secretary of State Colin Powell visited the poorest country in the Americas to pledge U.S. support for the interim government -- which has been criticized by rights groups for failing to arrest rebels accused of rights abuses.

"He surrendered himself this morning," Justice Minister Bernard Gousse told Reuters, declining to comment when asked if arrest warrants had been issued for other members of exiled Aristide's cabinet.

"It would be counterproductive to go into that at this time," he said."

Privert is accused of helping coordinate a massacre of political opponents in the city of Saint-Marc, around 45 miles northwest of Port-au-Prince, as violence raged in the run up to Aristide's fall, Gousse said.

Members of Aristide's Lavalas Family party say they are the target of a witch-hunt by rebels who led the revolt -- and still roam free -- and the interim government of new Prime Minister Gerard Latortue.

Former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune is in hiding after receiving death threats from rebels, many of whom the government plans to incorporate into the police force.

Gousse told Reuters in an interview last week it will be months before Haiti's crippled police and judiciary, ravaged by the bloody rebellion in which more than 200 people were killed, are rebuilt and ready to bring accused rebels to justice.

With figures like notorious former paramilitary leader Louis Jodel Chamblain, a convicted murderer who helped lead the bloody rebellion against Aristide, still holding sway in the north, Gousse said he must tread a fine line.

The government has, however, gone after supporters of Aristide, arresting more than a dozen of his associates and issuing a blacklist banning dozens more from leaving the country pending investigations of suspected graft.

Aristide, a former slum priest, was once widely viewed as a champion of Haiti's democracy but had been increasingly accused of corruption and political thuggery.

Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited

U.S. Coast Guard seize marijuana off Haiti's coat
By Agence France-Presse

MIAMI, Apr. (AFP) - US officials seized 436 kilos (960 pounds) of marijuana and detained three people after chasing a speedboat into Haitian waters with permission from the Port-au-Prince government, the US Coast Guard (USCG) said.

The three suspects claimed to be Jamaican nationals, the USCG said in a statement.

The Coast Guard vessel Thetis was patroling south of Haiti when its crew spotted the suspicious boat and chased it "into Haitian waters after enacting a standing bilateral agreement between the two countries for the purpose of counter-drug operations," the statement said.

"During the pursuit, the smugglers tossed nine bales of marijuana overboard before finally stopping two miles off the coast of Haiti. A boarding later discovered an additional 15 bales still on the vessel," the USCG said, adding that the total shipment amounted to 960 pounds.

The three people aboard the speedboat are to be prosecuted in Miami, while their vessel was handed over to Haitian authorities.

"This is an important step in the continuing restoration of security and stability in Haiti," said Rear Admiral Harvey Johnson, who commands USCG operations in the region.

"We have removed a large amount of illegal drugs from Haiti that may have been destined for the U.S., and the Haitian government has demonstrated their commitment to continued cooperation in the international effort to stem the flow of drugs that moves through the Caribbean region."

Copyright © 2004 Agence France Presse

Posted Monday, April 5, 2004
Haiti to elect new leader in 2005, U.S. vows support
By Arshad Mohammed and Simon Gardner, Reuters Writers

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Apr. 5 (Reuters) - Haiti vowed on Monday to hold presidential elections in 2005, and visiting Secretary of State Colin Powell pledged U.S. support to help the poorest country in the Americas start over after a bloody revolt.

powell-tortue.jpg (12373 bytes)
Secretary of State Colin Powell, right, and Prime Minister Gerard Latortue address a news conference after Powell arrived in Toussaint Louverture airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday ,April 5, 2004. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue told a news conference with Powell at Port-au-Prince's heavily guarded airport Haiti's next president would take the reins in February 2006 -- when ousted ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's term was originally due to end.

Powell, the first high-ranking U.S. official to visit Haiti since Aristide went into exile on Feb. 29, hit back at critics who say President Bush 's administration failed to support the former leader and pressured him to resign.

He also rejected a call by the 15-nation Caribbean Community for a probe into Aristide's ouster.

"It was only six weeks ago that Haiti was on the verge of ... total security collapse. On that last weekend in February, I believe we prevented a bloodbath from happening," Powell said as soldiers patrolled nearby with M-16s at the ready.

"Our purpose is to help the people and leadership of Haiti make a new beginning," he added, calling on armed gangs and rebels who led the revolt against Aristide to lay down arms. "Without disarmament, Haiti's democracy will remain at risk."

Powell said he and Latortue had discussed "the importance of getting guns off the street and ... out of the hands of thugs and criminals."

The Secretary of State did not make clear if he was specifically referring to the armed gangs and human rights violators who led the revolt. Powell called them "thugs" before Aristide's overthrow, but Latortue has since hailed them as "freedom fighters."


Shortly before Powell's arrival, rights watchdog Human Rights Watch urged him to pressure the new Haitian leaders into ensuring justice was "even-handed" and not "political."

"The contrast between the Haitian government's eagerness to prosecute former Aristide officials and its indifference to the abusive record of certain rebel leaders could not be more stark," said Joanne Mariner of its Americas Division.

U.S. Marines spearheading a 3,600-strong U.N.-sanctioned peacekeeping force continued regular daily patrols around the slum-ridden capital, and said all was calm.

Downtown Port-au-Prince was paralyzed by the customary traffic gridlock and street vendors laid out fruit and vegetables by gutters flowing with raw sewage and trash near an AIDS clinic that Powell visited.

Potshots at Marines by marauding street gangs have petered out in the weeks following Aristide's overthrow. Locals greet patrols with smiles and a "bonjour!," and say they feel safer.

But former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, living in hiding after receiving death threats, appealed to the United States to stamp out what supporters of Aristide's Lavalas Family party say is a witch-hunt against them.

"I call on the U.S. to guarantee the freedom of expression and (political) association," Neptune said by phone.

Aristide became Haiti's first freely elected leader in 1991 but was pushed out by a coup. He was restored by a U.S.-led intervention in 1994 and won a second term in 2000.

Accused by political foes of corruption and human rights violations, he was pressured to leave Haiti by the United States and other nations after the armed revolt broke out in February.

Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited

Human rights expert assails Powell visit to Haiti

To: National and International Desks, Daybook Editor

Contact: Tom Alexander, 202-457-1817

WASHINGTON, April 5 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Wendy Young, director for external relations for the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, criticized U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's visit today to Haiti, calling it pure political window dressing.

Please see also: First grader, model student, great-grandfather / Putting former Haitian murderous dictator Aristide in tight handcuffs, whose job is that?

The commission and other human rights groups have demanded a change in U.S. policy towards Haitian refugees seeking protection in the United States. Young said the current policy violates international law and in nearly all cases, is forcing Haitians to return to the violence they fled without a chance to voice their asylum claims.

Just Friday, the commission and the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (FIAC) filed a petition with the United Nations (news - web sites) asking its human rights group to investigate the way in which Haitians are detained in the United States and declare that the government's detention policy violates international law.

In February, 1,000 Haitians were intercepted at sea and forcibly returned to Haiti; most were not even given an opportunity to voice their fear of political persecution and request asylum. More recently, seven Haitian women were deported - - one was five months pregnant -- despite the continued insecurity and political violence throughout the Caribbean nation.

There is no mechanism in place for screening Haitian asylum seekers apprehended by the US Coast Guard. This despite the fact that every Cuban who is interdicted receives instructions and an asylum screening interview, and every interdicted Chinese national is given a questionnaire in his/her native language to complete and then may be screened.

Wendy Young is available to comment on this situation on camera or over the phone from Washington, D.C., by contacting Tom Alexander at 202-457-1817. http://www.usnewswire.com/ -0- /© 2004 U.S. Newswire 202-347-2770/

Posted Saturday, April 3, 2004
Powell to visit Haiti for day on Monday
By George Gedda, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON, Apr. 2 - Secretary of State Colin Powell will meet with leaders of Haiti's interim government Monday to assess the situation there five weeks after the departure of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Powell will make a day trip to the country, the first secretary of state to travel to Haiti since Madeleine Albright in 1998.

On a flight home Friday from NATO talks in Brussels, Belgium, Powell told reporters he had never met Haiti's new prime minister, Gerard Latortue.

"We wanted to give them enough time to stabilize the situation and get the new president functioning, but especially the new prime minister functioning," Powell said.

State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said Powell, in meetings with Latortue and other officials, would discuss U.S. and international efforts to bring stability to the country and provide humanitarian relief.

A key U.S. concern is the status of leaders of armed groups that helped force Aristide from office. The United States opposes the integration of any leaders into the government who are known to be criminals and human rights violators.

American officials have expressed concern about Latortue's efforts to reach out to some of these leaders in recent days.

Aristide and others have charged that the Bush administration coerced him into leaving. U.S. officials have denied the charge. Other Caribbean countries, suspicious about possible American pressure on Aristide, have declined to recognize the interim government.

The former president flew to the Central African Republic after resigning but went to Jamaica in mid-March for what was described as family reasons.

He has kept a low profile there since then.

With expensive nation-building projects under way already in Afghanistan and Iraq, the administration is unwilling to take on another in Haiti despite great needs.

Powell has said the administration will not seek a supplemental appropriation for Haiti during the current fiscal year. A State Department official said the administration will seek funds for Haiti by drawing on money appropriated for other foreign programs.

The official, asking not to be identified, said an international donors conference may be held for Haiti in June. There are some 2,000 American troops in Haiti along with a combined total of about 1,600 French, Canadian and Chilean forces.

They are to be replaced by U.N. peacekeepers in early June.

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press

Posted Thursday, April 1, 2004
Haitian gov't seeks to charge Aristide
By Stevenson Jacobs, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Haiti's U.S.-backed interim government plans to seek the extradition of ousted Jean-Bertrand Aristide on charges of corruption and rights abuses, the justice minister said Thursday.

The move could further complicate Aristide's efforts to find a permanent home in exile.

Aristide, who fled Feb. 29 as rebels were reaching the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, is in temporary asylum in Jamaica. Officials there have said he will move to permanent asylum in South Africa after that country's general elections in two weeks.

Please see also: U.S. considers case against Aristide / Taking the liberalism out of liberal arts / Comment Jean-Bertrand Aristide presidait au trafic de cocaine en Haiti / Putting former Haitian murderous dictator Aristide in tight handcuffs, whose job is that? / Krik? Krak?

In coming weeks Haitian authorities will appoint an independent body to investigate allegations of embezzlement and assassinations under Aristide, Justice Minister Bernard Gousse told The Associated Presss in an interview Thursday.

"We are setting up a team to assemble all the violations ... for which he is responsible, and then we'll formally ask for his extradition," he said, refusing to give a time frame.

Aristide has charged he was kidnapped at gunpoint by U.S. agents and put on a plane to Central African Republic. Caribbean leaders returned him to temporary asylum in Jamaica.

The United States denies Aristide's claims, saying it acted at his request and probably saved his life.

Aristide's search for asylum has been complicated by countries unwillingness to deal with the diplomatic fallout from his charges against the United States.

Jamaica's government gave him shelter on condition he made no political statements, so it was impossible to reach him for comment.

The interim Haitian government of Prime Minister Gerard Latortue esitmates as much as $1 billion in state funds was pilfered under Aristide, and has ordered a formal audit by an international firm.

More than 300 people were killed in the three-week rebellion against Aristide, including scores of police officers accused of attacking Aristide opponents, along with street gangs allegedly armed by Aristide's party.

Aristide became Haiti's first freely elected leader in 200 years of independence in 1990.

He lost support as he turned to violence to subdue opposition, but his party remains the most popular political movement, especially among the majority impoverished people among the population of 8.3 million.

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press

Abductions on the rise in Haiti as poor desperate
Current crimes called 'fast-food kidnapping'; abductors 'are after whatever they can get,' writes Marina Jimenez
By Marina Jimenez, The Globe and Mail Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Natacha Cassis, a businesswoman from a prominent Haitian family, was thinking only of her five-year-old son as she rushed to pick him up at his posh private school. At the entrance, several young hooligans grabbed her and dragged her to her car. "Take it," she said, handing over the keys to her jeep.

It was only when they stuffed her in the back seat and sped off that Ms. Cassis realized she had been abducted by a jittery, excitable group of kidnappers who turned out to be rank amateurs.

They called her every profane name in the book and debated aloud about whether they should rape her. She was driven to Cité Soleil, an infamous Port-au-Prince slum, where one of her abductors mistakenly fired his gun, a rudimentary, homemade weapon.

"I told them, if I die, you get nothing. You have to do this right. You have to have a plan," said Ms. Cassis, 30, recalling how she took control of the situation. "You need a drop-off spot," she told them, as she used her own cellphone -- theirs had run out of credit -- to call her family and negotiate a ransom.

Kidnapping used to be a relatively rare crime in Haiti, but it is fast becoming a common way of raising capital in a country with income disparities as legendary as its culture of chaos and violence. With the country still struggling to recover from the armed uprising that led to the ouster of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, armed partisans are becoming increasingly desperate for cash.

Although Ms. Cassis was kidnapped several months ago, her captors' modus operandi has become increasingly common: Kidnap a person at random, demand wildly inflated ransoms of up to $1-million (U.S.), then negotiate a settlement of as little as $10,000.

Two weeks ago, Anna Cianculle, a grandmother from an old land-owning family, was kidnapped just as she was coming out of church in her Sunday best. She was released four days later after her family paid an undisclosed sum. The same day, the wife of a well-known hotel owner was also kidnapped.

Under Mr. Aristide, corrupt police and gang members linked to the deposed leader were also involved in the kidnapping industry. They would target specific members of wealthy families in retaliation for political slights. But the current incidents are what security experts call "fast-food kidnapping" or "kidnapping lite."

"People are after whatever they can get," said Didier Hudicourt, head of SOPOTEL Security in Port-au-Prince. "They take any one and the ransoms vary. There is a lot of negotiating and these people don't really know what the person they kidnap is worth."

In a country without even an official census, it is impossible to obtain reliable statistics on kidnapping. But there are several high-profile victims every week, according to newly appointed national police chief Leon Charles, and countless other minor incidents involving extortion and ransoms.

"It used to be that we had political kidnappings to terrorize the rich. But now people just want money," Mr. Charles said. "A lot of the cases now are chimères [pro-Aristide gangs] and sometimes police officers are involved. That is the worst part."

Ms. Cassis negotiated with her family to drop off as much U.S. cash as they could gather -- they raised $20,000 -- then persuaded the gang leader to stay with her in the car while several underlings were dispatched to the drop-off point.

Over the course of five long hours, the leader told Ms. Cassis his story. He said how he had been trained in computers, but couldn't find a job. He needed to buy weapons to protect himself. His gang became entangled with Mr. Aristide, who at first paid and armed them, but eventually betrayed them. The ex-president's divide-and-conquer tactics produced a web of rival gangs in the slums.

Initially, Ms. Cassis was so terrified that her body was trembling, but as the evening wore on, a kind of Stockholm syndrome set in.

After her family paid the ransom, the leader left her with two underlings, who promised to drop her on a nearby road. In the process, the underlings realized they were being followed and jumped out of the car.

In the other vehicle were Ms. Cassis's cousins, who had been sent into the night with semi-automatic weapons to rescue her. She hid during the gunfight that ensued, leaving her two captors dead -- a common enough end result for kidnappers.

Ms. Cassis's story illustrates the terror felt by Haiti's wealthy elite. They live high in the hills over the capital in guarded compounds with pools and tennis courts, while most of their compatriots eke out their existence in the fetid slums below.

But Ms. Cassis says the country's elites must take a measure of responsibility for the situation. Many opt out of the public system altogether, avoiding taxes while they finance a parallel private system that relies on bodyguards, expensive jeeps and generators. She doesn't condone violence, but she does understand her kidnappers' motives.

"These boys are cornered and it is their fate. The system is a dead end for them -- no wonder they turn to guns," she said. "But there is no Kidnappers Anonymous. How will they ever be reintegrated into civil society now that Aristide is gone?"

© Copyright 2004 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc.

Political reprisals linger in post-Aristide Haiti
By Simon Gardner, Reuters Writer

LEOGANE, Haiti, Apr. 1 (Reuters) - Lawyer Leslie Jean-Louis was left with blood welling in the corner of his eye and bruises across his face when he was beaten up and almost lynched because he supports Haiti's ousted former leader.

sauvagere 1.jpg (21679 bytes)
Supporters of father Fritz Sovagere pray in his yard March 31, 2004, in Leogane, Haiti during a demonstration against Sovagere where marchers demanded that the church hierarchy remove him from his post. Demonstrators said that during the Jean-Bertrand Aristide presidency Sovagere was involved in corruption and in encouraging pro-government gang activity. (Reuters/Daniel Morel) 

Walking home from his office in the rural city of Leogane, around 20 miles west of Port-au-Prince, he was jumped by opponents of ex-President Jean Bertrand Aristide on Wednesday and kicked and punched to the ground.

He said he owed his life to a policeman who fired shots to scare the crowd away.

A month after former slum priest Aristide went into exile after a bloody rebellion and the intervention of the United States, his followers still face reprisals in what they call a witch hunt against his democratically elected Lavalas Family party.

"They hit me just because I support Lavalas!" a terrified Jean-Louis, 33, said, tears mixing with blood on his face as he cowered inside the local police station. "Lavalas is no longer in power, but that's my party. That's democracy," he said,

Aristide's opponents accuse his fallen government of corruption and thuggery, and want to eliminate Lavalas.

Political violence has been a part of life in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, since it won independence from France 200 years ago.

Former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune has gone into hiding, saying right-wing rebels who overthrew Aristide have threatened to kill him.

Neptune does not trust Haiti's new U.S.-endorsed government to protect him because it has hailed the rebels as freedom fighters and is incorporating them into the national police force.

Aristide, Haiti's first democratically elected president, was whisked into exile on Feb. 29 and a rebel leader has vowed to kill him if he ever sets foot inside Haiti again.

Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue has issued a blacklist of dozens of Aristide supporters, including Neptune, who are barred from leaving the country as a precautionary measure pending investigations of any "ill doing."

In central Leogane, dozens of locals marched on Wednesday to the house of their parish priest, an Aristide associate, accusing him of corruption and demanding police arrest him.

Tempers frayed.

"We don't want no more Lavalas. They is tyrants man!" shouted artist Jean Riguel Merolus, as women inside the grounds of the priest's house held hands, danced in a circle and prayed for an end to the standoff.

Vast swaths of rural Haiti, particularly in the north, are still under the control of rebels who led the February uprising. A 3,500-strong U.S.-led multinational interim force, in place under a United Nations mandate, has not tried to disarm them.

To the horror of human rights groups, Latortue has dubbed the men, many of whom have been linked with murder and torture in the past, freedom fighters.

Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved

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